Behind Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park is one of the peaceful trails in West Virginia. Tonight I want to take you on a quiet walk down the trail for a few minutes.
As I walk down the cool forest pathway I can hear the roar of the falls just around the next bend. I slow my pace a bit when I notice the clear water running through the little drainage that flows into Glade Creek in Fayette County West Virginia. A red eft lumbers fearlessly across the soft bed of moss. He knows that his bright colors are warning to would be predators that he’s a bad choice for a menu item. The eft is the juvenile form of the newt and he’s making his way to a quiet pool of water. Soon reddish orange skin will turn a cool green leaving only red spots all along the length of his body. His tail will flatten out into a powerful propulsion device that gives him mastery of the murky depths. My brother and I would catch them out of the ponds and pools and pretend that they were pet alligators. Eventually they would curl themselves backwards and expose the bright yellow belly. The first time I saw that I thought for sure that I had killed it. I tossed the newt back into the water and it came back to life and dove to the deepest part of the pond. FAKER! I called out in disbelief. Little did I know at the time that they were just daring someone to take a bite out of their toxic skin. As it turns out they were predators in their own right. Among the other things that they hunt are mosquitoe larvae. With that in mind I leave the little eft to enjoy his bed of deep green moss and continue on to the falls.
I’m not far from the sound of the water when something black and yellow zips past my head. It startled me at first. But when looked closer I discovered that I had been faked out again.
The Dogwood Borer is a type of clear wing moth that mimics Yellowjackets
What I thought was a Yellowjacket had an odd looking stinger. It also had a strangely thick waist for a member of the wasp family. It was a moth! This type of moth is a member of clear wing moth family. Biologically they’re a very interesting group of moths that are active in daylight. Horticulturally, they are problematic. The larvae of the one pictured here ( The Dogwood Borer) bore into trees and feed on the inner bark. They’re also known to carry fungal disease that can devastate valuable crop trees like pecans. I was barely able to focus one this one when took of and flew away.
It wasn’t long before I could smell the mists coming off of the falls. I stepped over to the edge of the trail and saw the silky flow framed by the leaves of the trees. The falls seem to be a collection of hundreds of tiny little cascades flowing over the rocks like a lace veil. The air surrounding the falls is oxygenated and ionized. The mists carry the scent of the stones that line the creek bed. Several types of songbirds provide the soundtrack for me as I stare through the little window of leaves and branches.
What a wondrous and beautiful world that The Lord has provided for us! And how much does He love us to make us a part of something so wonderful?
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There’s a reason why the Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State is one of the most photographed spots in West Virginia. No matter what time of year it is the old Mill never fails to please. I was to meet a very special client here a few days ago for portraits and I knew that I had to make the effort to be there early and capture a few shots for my blog. We’re very close to the Peak Color weeks of Fall. The landscape of Appalachia swims in warm colors. The rustic construction of the mill fits perfectly into the mountains. The texture of the cut stone and rough oak beams and planks are artfully assembled using techniques that are centuries old. Every stone tells a story about how gentle taps with a hammer and chisel free the blocks from the stone quarry. How they are shaped by the same hands who lovingly tap away. I was blessed to have met a man at art show a couple of weeks ago who told me about how his father cut some of the oak that was used to make the chute that carries the water which turns the wheel to grind the flour. As I look at the mill and imagine how in the days before store bought bread how many hands were needed to feed a community. Hands that worked the stone. Hands that cut the lumber. Hands that built the wheel. Hands that put it all together. Hands that grew the grain. Hands that milled the flour and hands that baked the bread. It’s very fitting that these same hands would come together to break that bread on special occasions. Even in the old days nobody had all the skills needed to thrive on their own. Places like the mill were community effort and a community is an extension of family.
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Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Glade Creek Grist Mill in Fall 1”. The feature image is available for purchase by contacting me on Facebook or by using the Contact Form on my website.
The gently babbling water flows over the rocks. In the shallow pools small fish dart under cover as my shadow crosses in front of them. Dragonflies and Damselflies zip around and occasionally hover. A small crayfish crawls from one pool to another. Somewhere behind me the distinct sounds of a woodpecker hammering away at an old snag echoes through the mountains.
I step carefully as I approached the spot where I will place my tripod. I am in a public park but the copperheads don’t understand that everyone is welcomed here and I’d rather not suffer another bite. Satisfied that I’m not disturbing a sleeping serpent, I begin to set up my camera. The twin falls of Glade Creek are one of our most popular places. They’re certainly not the highest falls in West Virginia but there’s something about the perfect symmetry that’s irresistible. The sun is high in sky and I want the water to come out nice and silky so I make the appropriate adjustments and set the timer hoping that the children playing nearby can stay out frame for just a few more seconds. This was ten years ago and it was one of my first with a real camera. The result is still one of my favorite images today.
Tonight’s image is the water wheel of the Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park. I took the picture several years ago when I was interested in creating a micro-hydro power plant for my home. My plan was to study pictures of water wheels and eventually make something that I could use to run the lights during an outage. While the plans for an energy independent home never manifested I learned a lot about the difference between working with God’s creation and working against it. Providence is always there waiting for us but we have to recognize it and figure out how to take advantage of it. For a wheel like the one here there has to be enough water above the wheel to move the heavy stones that grind the grains into flour. This means that the mill has to be in just the right spot and the water has to be channeled. Debris has to be filtered out to avoid damage to the wheel. The spot has to be on a stable foundation. And that’s just the beginning. Sometimes when we’re praying and searching for God to fill a need in our lives we expect Him to drop the answers in our lap fully assembled and all tied up with a pretty bow. That can happen but more often than not God provides the components and we have to recognize them and then make use of them. The water, the stones, the trees that became the wood and even the physics that govern the use were all in existence long before the mill was created to fill the needs and feed the people. When we are praying for God to make a way it’s likely that He’s already made a provision if we can just figure out how to put it together.
Tonight’s image is the remnant of theold bridge at Gauley Bridge. If memory serves me it was burned down during the American Civil War. To me it not only represents history but also a lost future. The fog that surrounds the old pylon gives me the feeling of something ethereal like a visitor from the past has come to the future to check up on things. Is it a manifestation of a memory or am I a vision of the future? It’s in these moments when the past and the future seem to collide that fascinate me. Maybe it was the fog on the river and maybe it was the contrast between the old stones and the seedling trees that are growing out from it that seemed to suspend and warp time for me. I can imagine that I can hear a lament echoing out from the fog. It’s a voice from the past warning not to burn bridges and be quick to reconcile with those on the other side of river.